Reducing regulations and cutting back on all that paperwork is the focus of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) annual Red Tape Report Card. Their latest analysis, as part of Red Tape Awareness Week, gives Saskatchewan its first ever fully-fledged A grade. However, just how the city of Prince Albert is doing is up for debate.
Executive Vice-President of the CFIB Laura Jones said the province had an A- grade the previous year. It now joined Manitoba and Nova Scotia as the A graders at the top of the list of provincial governments which are putting in practices to monitor, report and reel in excessive regulation and bureaucracy.
She said there’s a need for governments to be transparent regarding what she termed “the hidden tax of regulations.”
“Red tape has some terrible consequences," Jones told paNOW. “It increases prices, reduces employment opportunities, and it also does things like increase poverty and increase income inequality.”
Jones said the cutting of red tape was more important than it might sound on the surface to the average citizen given governments’ three essential roles of taxing, spending and regulating.
“Can you imagine governments getting away with no reporting on taxes and spending? That’s essentially where we were 10 years ago [regarding regulations] when we started our Red Tape Awareness Week,” she said.
Jones explained when there’s a lack of accountability about bureaucracy, citizens face wasted time and money because of the irritations and frustrations.
“So it can feel like a death by a thousand cuts: 20 minutes here, an extra 30 minutes there, a two-page form that could be half a page or a 10-page form that could be one page," she said.
Jones estimated Saskatchewan would save over $200 million in taxpayer dollars in the next 10 years for having both a direct cost estimator to cost out individual regulations and a broad measure of regulatory requirements.
Prince Albert's red tape cutting efforts are a work in progress
While Saskatchewan leads the nation on cutting red tape, the city of Prince Albert has earned a reputation among the local business sector of being over-regulated and steeped in bureaucracy.
“We have heard from our members in regards to the regulation/red tape,” Chamber of Commerce CEO Elise Hildebrandt told paNOW in an email. “We will continue to review the concerns of our members through surveys and round table discussions. Based on the collaboration of all involved, we will make a recommendation to the city of how the concerns can be addressed."
The mayor of Prince Albert Greg Dionne acknowledged there was ongoing concern regarding red tape and called the city’s efforts to address matters “a work in progress.” But he was eager to point out under his leadership the planning department was not allowed to use the word ‘no’ on ideas that came forward.
“If it’s a bylaw issue or another issue, they need to bring it to council and to me and we’ll see if there’s some way we can get around it,” he said. But he added the city’s hands were tied when it came to items such as provincial and national building codes.
“Like as of Jan.1 there’s a new energy code and we have to change bylaws around better insulated windows and doors," he said. "Lots of times some of the issues that come up it looks like we’re delaying a project but we’re the sort of keepers of the codes."
Asked if he considered the city to be flexible enough in cutting red tape to attract new business and to work with development ideas, Dionne said anyone who thought they were being slowed down or treated unfairly should call his office.
“I will do everything I can and that’s why I like getting involved right at the start [of a project],” he said.
Dionne said if he was aware of a new business idea in P.A. and the proposed building or location involved he could help get the right zoning process underway quickly if necessary.
“But a lot of times people tells us things at the last moment and we then discover there’s an issue, when sometimes we could have made zoning adjustments in advance,” he said.
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